Tell us a bit about Stemettes, how it came about and what it is you do?
Stemettes is a social enterprise group, set up to help combat the lack of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields. We know that there are a number of reasons why girls aren’t taking up STEM subjects…they think they’re for boys; they don’t understand what career options are available; they don’t see enough women in STEM roles acting as role models…the list goes on. Stemettes looks to turn these perceptions on their head, providing girls and young women aged between 13 and 25 with a positive environment where they can communicate with one another, opening the door for future opportunities. We want all girls to be able to make informed decisions about careers in STEM, so that eventually women can be proportionally represented in the field. Since I founded Stemettes 6 years ago, we have engaged with more than 40,000 young people across Europe sharing our vision of a more diverse and balanced science and tech community.
As one of three girls in a class of 70 studying Maths and Computer Science at University, I know that we need more women role models in the industry which is why we need to inspire the next generation of females into STEM fields in the first place - showing them the amazing women already in STEM, with panel events, hackathons, exhibitions, mentoring schemes and more. Encouragingly, since 2017 when I won the Role Model award category at the Booking.com Technology Playmaker Awards, I think there are more conversations taking place which is important, however, there is still a long way to go.
You mentioned on Twitter that the prize fund has helped work on evolving your Stemettes App, could you tell us more about this?
Our Stemettes community is why we do what we do and our mobile app is the central platform for us – to connect users, enable them to seek advice, share ‘wins’, propose ideas for new projects, do ‘shout outs’ and update one another. It’s an incredibly positive environment used by aspiring girls and young women, which has given us a solid platform to build on. We’re always looking to streamline and better the app, but with added funding we’re now able to offer our Stemettes something beyond a communications platform where they can connect. Now, we’re beginning to run Stemettes Future Summit events, Youth Boards and even engage in tech Policy work, which is really exciting.
You recently started the #WomenTechCharge podcast with the Evening Standard in the UK. How did that come about? Who has been your favorite guest to date and why?
It all started at a dinner party that I went to early 2018! I was sat next to the Head of Digital at the Evening Standard and we got talking. A year later on International Women’s Day in 2019, I did my very first podcast. We’ve done two seasons now. It just shows the importance of attending networking events, such as the Booking.com Tech Playmaker Awards! You never know who you’ll meet, or end up sitting next to you, and where that might lead you.
I couldn’t choose my favourite, but from season 1 I really enjoyed speaking with Louise Broni-Mensah who was the first black female founder accepted into Silicon Valley's Y-Combinator program (which counts Dropbox and Reddit among its alumni), and is now taking her urban music party platform global. Her story is just incredible. In season 2, I loved speaking with "Beth" (not her real name!) who equips secret service agents with the tech that keeps the UK safe. I spoke with her about her role at GCHQ and the most surprising things about working in one of the world's leading intelligence agencies. I also spoke with Emma Lawton, in season 2, who is a digital strategist at Parkinson’s UK where she works to create apps and devices which can help people with Parkinson’s manage their condition. Emma was 29 years old when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Her story is incredible and it was so interesting to hear her journey – from graphic designer, to being diagnosed, to now working in tech for Parkinson’s UK
Looking to the future, where are you looking to take your career next? What do you hope to achieve in the next year, both personally and with Stemettes?
For me personally, 2020 will be the year of JOMO… Joy of Missing Out! That means taking this year to focus on me, and a year where I platform other people, rather than trying to take-on everything myself.
For Stemettes, I’m really excited for our upcoming launch of Stemettes Academies in the UK. Partnering with QA - a digital education and skills provider in the UK. Academies will run one to two-week program’s during school half terms and summer holidays, offering girls and young women with the opportunity to get QA certified in Agile, Cyber and Python – all for free! It’s designed to equip young women who are interested in working in STEM, with industry recognized training and certification by QA-qualified trainers. And this isn’t just within our existing Stemettes network, we’re opening it up for applicants across schools and community groups across Britain. After a successful pilot in October, I’m so proud to launch this program in Q1! I’m looking forward to what else 2020 will bring and how the Stemettes community will grow and evolve.
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE is the CEO of Stemettes and the Technology Playmaker Award winner of the Role Model category in 2018. She is also the host of the Evening Standard Women Tech Charge podcast and a Professor at the University of Sunderland, England